Chinese compactness and 拜拜 (bye bye)

I'm finally all done with my 8 weeks of being in Beijing and studying Mandarin Chinese full time. I think my mandarin has improved significantly, but it's still not good enough to watch a movie without subtitles. I think what I'm missing mostly is practice listening to real Mandarin, as opposed to the very clear and standard-compliant speech uttered by my teachers and fellow students. On the last day of my summer school program, I came upon a word that I did not recognize, and so I looked it up in my dictionary; The definition shocked me and I just want to share it with anybody who's still reading these days. Just for background, 推 (tuī) means 'to push' and 敲 (qiāo) means 'to knock on'. The definition from my dictionary follows: 

推敲 (tuīqiāo)– Legend has it that Jia Dao, a poet of the Tang Dynasty, was composing a poem as he rode astride a donkey. He came up with two lines: 'The birds perched on the trees by a pond,/As, in the moonlight, a monk knocked on the door,' but was unsure whether or not he should change 'knocked on' to 'pushed'. While thinking this over, and making the movements of pushing and knocking, he bumped into Han Yu, to whom he told his quandary. After thinking for a while, Han Yu said it would be better to use 'knocked on'. (See the 19th volume of Collected Notes on a Hermit Fishing at Shaoxi Brook, quoted from Fine Words of Liu Yuxi.); (fig.) weigh one's words and expressions; polish or refine repeatedly

This is an awesome illustration of the poetry and compactness that can make learning Chinese really, well, interesting. Classical Chinese was basically only comprehensible to an extremely small part of the population; these were the scholar-officials who spent most of their time reading or writing classical literary chinese (文言文 wényánwén). Classical Chinese is distinguished from modern Chinese by its extreme compactness, with every single character, which only represents one syllable, comprising its own word. Certain expressions have made their way from classical Chinese into modern vernacular Mandarin, but if a person heard the expression (or sometimes even saw the characters) made up of words that he knows without having been taught the meaning of the expression, he would not be able to decipher it. The word tuīqiāo is a decent example of what I'm talking about.  

Also, I'm back in the USA now, so for now this blog is coming to an end. If anybody's read everything I've written, I'm flattered, and I hope you liked it. I might post some pictures from Beijing and my second trip to Vietnam (I went there after leaving Beijing but before coming back home) in the next few days, so check back for those if you want. As I'm back in the USA and will hopefully be near phones and have more free time, I have no excuse to not stay in touch, so email me if you want to say hi.